The line between high falutin’ art and down and dirty folk has always been porous, says the SSO Chief.

For David Robertson, a concert programme is usually as important as the music. The Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s artistically voracious Chief Conductor is invariably interested in what was going on in the world around the time a piece of music was written, and the connections he teases out between art, literature and history are the unexpected nuggets that frequently enrich his performances.

Sydney Symphony Orchestra with David Robertson. Photo by Ken Butti

On the surface, kicking off the SSO’s 2017 season with a couple of late-Romantics – the Brahms Violin Concerto with Maxim Vengerov and Tchaikovsky’s popular Fifth Symphony – might not strike you as radical, but take a ride with Robertson on a three-concert journey that passes through Ravel and Bartók and winds up with Ligeti and the whole will likely turn out to be more than the sum of the parts (not that the parts aren’t in themselves rewarding enough).

Of course, there is inevitably more than one parallel to be drawn between the works, but it’s the common thread...